FBI director, Robert Mueller, visited Tbilisi on May 8 to discuss with the Georgian authorities cooperation in counterterrorism, including in the view of 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia’s Black Sea city of Sochi, U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, said.
He made the remarks when speaking with journalists on Wednesday after he was asked to comment on Georgia’s ongoing investigation into August, 2012 Lopota gorge clash in which at least seven suspected militants with links to North Caucasus insurgency and three Georgian troops were killed. Georgia’s PM Ivanishvili has said that the investigation might substantiate allegations voiced by the Public Defender that Georgia’s previous government trained and equipped militants to then send them to Russia’s North Caucasus.
Asked how important and “needed” such investigation was, especially against the background of “Russia’s allegations that Georgia trains terrorists”, the U.S. Ambassador responded: “I think that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings everybody is paying a special attention to developments in the North Caucasus and so I think there will be an interest in the investigation and making sure it’s a good, thorough investigation.”
He also added that “a number of countries are helping the United States to investigate the Boston Marathon incident.”
“The director of the FBI Robert Mueller was in town today for meetings at the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and with the Prime Minister to talk about exactly these kinds of things and we’re very grateful for the cooperation we are getting from the Georgian government,” the U.S. Ambassador said.
Asked to elaborate further into details of the FBI director’s visit, the Ambassador responded: “The FBI is responsible for protecting Americans against terrorism and so in the run up to Sochi Olympics, Mr. Mueller has been consulting throughout the region on what can be done to protect the athletes at the upcoming Olympic Games.”
Before visiting Tbilisi on May 8, the FBI director held talks in Moscow on May 7.
The U.S. Ambassador made the remarks while speaking with journalists after touring together with PM Ivanishvili and healthcare minister Davit Sergeenko the U.S.-funded biological research facility in Tbilisi outskirts.
The U.S. has already invested USD 150 million in the state-of-the-art lab, which was named after former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and which aims at protecting public and animal health through dangerous pathogens detection and epidemiological surveillance.
“This is a Georgian facility and control now is moving to the Georgian authorities, who will be managing this [facility] in cooperation and partnership with experts from the United States,” U.S. Ambassador Norland said.
“This facility has the regional significance. This is the state-of-the-art facility unlike anything in almost any country in the region,” he said and added that the facility was open for participation by experts “from anywhere in this region.”
“This is an open invitation to participate in this state-of-the-art scientific facility,” the U.S. Ambassador said.